As TikTok looks to live another day (the Chinese-owned social media platform will be taken over by computing giant Oracle), Instagram strategically launched Reels in the U.S. and across 50 other countries in early August to compete with the popular content generator. An in-app feature that allows users to create and promote 15-second video clips set to music, Reels is widely considered to be Facebook’s answer to TikTok. The most downloaded app in the world by early 2020, TikTok swiftly amassed 100 million monthly users in the U.S., a jump of over 800 percent in just two years. Rapid short-form video consumption, optimized sharing and discovery capabilities on its famed “For You” page, and staggering rates of engagement – particularly amongst 13 to 24-year-olds – became the app’s key differentiators for brand marketers. Beauty News spoke with eight brands about their perspectives on using Reels vs. TikTok; how they approach and interact with these respective platforms, if they believe them to be complimentary, or if they prefer one experience over the other.

Benefit Cosmetics
Angela Purcaro, Associate Director of Social & PR
“Both Reels and TikTok have value in our social strategy. The reach and potential for virality on TikTok is astounding and connecting with Gen Z on the platform is key for continued brand awareness and relationship building. We have a large and engaged audience on Instagram and the new addition of Reels allows us to share more raw and unfiltered content in-feed, which is a great thing for the beauty industry! We look forward to watching how Instagram continues to develop Reels because we believe video content will continue to play a large role in how we communicate with our consumers on social.”

Toto Haba, SVP MarCom
“The biggest difference between TikTok and Reels right now is the ability for content to go truly viral on TikTok. The FYP algorithm is geared towards discovery of content that interest you. People don’t have to be famous to get seen on TikTok. You just have to produce great content and you can get a huge following overnight. Reels on the other hand, relies on your social graph, which means you basically have to be famous to be seen by a lot of people. This makes TikTok the best place for beauty brands to find the next generation of influencers.”

Priscilla Tsai, Founder & CEO
“With the boom of TikTok, we’ve really seen the demand for entertainment (versus more social or purely aesthetic content) skyrocket. Consumers today want quick, fun, and engaging content — and brands want easy-to-adopt tools in order to jump headfirst into this new entertainment-first age of social media. Thus far, many brands have been slow to incorporate TikTok into their social media strategies; the platform isn’t entirely intuitive. As a feature built into an already-established platform like Instagram, Reels facilitates new creators and brands adopting this new format. I think we’ll see a huge increase in brands — beauty and otherwise — starting to create short form video content and working with influencers to create branded content on Reels as well. For cocokind specifically, this is a huge opportunity to introduce more entertaining video content to our Instagram community that may be less familiar with the TikTok platform themselves as well. Much like when Instagram introduced the Stories feature (which at the time seemed quite similar to Snapchat), I think we’ll see Reels very quickly become an essential platform.”

e.l.f. Beauty
Gayitri Budhraja, Vice President of Brand
“As a strategic move, it is understandable that Instagram would follow the approach they took with Instagram Stories, which proved to be successful — emulate the playbook of the major market disruptor. Part of our DNA at e.l.f. is to be a digital disrupter – it’s how we were one of the first beauty brands to be on TikTok in a way that was made for the platform. The platform’s advanced algorithm, which powers its ability to learn preferences and customize users’ pages, will be difficult to quickly surpass. TikTok stands for authentic, unfiltered content which has drawn staggering numbers to its platform. Since Reels sits inside of the Instagram experience, known for more aspirational content, it will be interesting to see if viewers flock to Reels for the same reasons they flock to TikTok. At e.l.f., we are experimenting on Reels and building presence there, while continuing to innovate content on TikTok that celebrates the beauty of every eye, lip and face.”

Glow Recipe
Christine Chang, Co-Founder & Co-CEO
“We’ve been very interested in TikTok for a long time and believe TikTok is an amazing opportunity to engage a new Gen Z audience with a distinct content style and focus on narratives or content series that viewers can relate to. We view TikTok mostly as a brand awareness tool and a way to spread skin care knowledge to a wider audience in a short video format. We could see from the beginning that it was a highly engaged platform for short form content and have been experimenting with different formats and lengths. With the inception of IG Reels, this has allowed us to maximize the content that we’ve been creating on TikTok. As Reels is still quite new, we can’t wait to see how we can further use that platform to engage our 830K+ Instagram community with short, snackable snippets of value-added content.”

Sarah Lee, Co-Founder & Co-CEO
“On TikTok, we have definitely seen that viewers enjoy watching our routine content targeted toward different skin concerns or around self-care routines at home. Our viewers also love when we put together education focused skin care hacks, tips, and tricks videos that show them new and interesting ways to use our products. Our content that shows our product textures in an ASMR-like way also does really well since it’s so visually and audibly appealing. This continues to reinforce for us that our audience is always looking for and prioritizes product education in multiple forms. The education and immersive content we provide on TikTok really resonates with that audience – our behind-the-scenes of an IRL aqua peel facial has been our top-performing post! IG Reels is a great way for us to maximize this type of short-form content to promote skin care education and show off the sensorial nature of our products.”

Huda Beauty
Alya Kattan, Chief Instagram Officer
“Reels is something we are currently using and continue to explore! It’s been amazing to test different content from product hacks to other more entertaining and viral-like content that helps build brand love. We feel really confident in the ability for REELS to perform well for our brand. There are still things about the Instagram product that are in development and we’re excited to see how they optimize and roll it out in a big way. And while REELS is similar to TikTok there are still benefits to using both platforms to grow our brand and awareness; the audience on TikTok for example is much younger than our audience is on Instagram so it’s not duplicative. Reels and TikTok are both better suited for brand building and awareness vs. a direct link to sales given the nature of the video content that performs well on the platforms. It is definitely meant to tell a story that helps our brand to best foster a strong social community! Instagram ads and in-feed posts that have direct links to shop are definitely better suited for driving actual business. We do know that Tik Tok is planning on rolling out a similar shopping function, so we’re interested in seeing what that will do for our content and business!

Sand & Sky
Sarah Hamilton, Co-Founder and Managing Director
“As a social first brand we are absolutely loving the new platforms and formats coming to life – we’re finding that the new wave of formats lend weight to snappier motion, following on-trend concepts which have led to an increase in engagement by the user. We’ve been utilizing them both via our branded accounts, as well as externally through influencer marketing.

We’ve found the shift from traditional platforms to the latter to be really seamless, especially in our influencer partnerships as we build on our existing relationships – these creators have been able to shoot new wave content, incorporating fun narratives and challenges. It’s been really positive to be able to show creators in a different light, rather than sticking to our usual product application styles, and to be able to share this with our community who already know and love them. The 15 second limit on Reels does challenge both creators and our team to create content that is short and concise – of course the duration means we aren’t always able to show everything we may want in 1 piece, especially when it comes to communicating branded pieces on our own channels, however our clever creative team never seem to miss a beat with optimizing to this format.

While we are utilizing TikTok to participate in the Gen Z language of trends, challenges and music, we also plan to show a lot more behind the scenes content of our brand and the people who make up the Sand & Sky team. We’re finding TikTok an incredible space to express raw and organic content, as it acts as a form of therapy and entertainment. As for Reels, we’re viewing this as an extension of our feed, it’s a different way of putting out content vs IGTV, lives and stories. As our attention spans are decreasing more and more, it’s really positive to see Instagram catering to a shorter format. We’re always testing new ways of working and are continuing to do so with the new platforms, seeing what people are drawn to, and what we can do that’s out of the box to constantly keep our finger on the pulse – and we’re incredibly excited to see where this takes us.”

Amanda Baldwin, President
“TikTok is a place where we can be super experimental and fun because it’s a newer platform for us. We love getting to jump into challenges and trends with their hyper-engaged community, as it grants us exposure to new and different audiences. Our following on Instagram means we’re always looking for creative new ways to communicate information about our products, SPF, and skincare to our community. Reels has definitely given us that! We love how the tool encourages easy, fun, lo-fi content on IG that is still super innovative.”

Wander Beauty
Divya Gugnani, Co-Founder & CEO
“We’re using both platforms and honestly don’t have a preference. Both TikTok & Reels give us the flexibility to deliver quick, digestible content that’s fast and fun to consume. Using Reels is great because we already have an existing community on the platform. With TikTok, we’re building from the ground up so we’re introducing our content to new followers there as opposed to sharing content in a new way with our existing community on Instagram. With a community of over 300K Wander Beauties on Instagram, we’ve seen higher engagement on that platform but we’re cultivating an engaged audience on TikTok as well. We’re excited to see both platforms grow.”